Transitions to primary school
Given the current progress in suppressing the transmission of the virus and the easing of restrictions for children in other parts of society, primary schools may wish to offer some in person transition support from ELC to primary school in June to supplement online transition activities. Decisions around in person transition support should be made on a collegiate basis, with full involvement of the school and ELC staff involved.
The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues agreed that transition visits should be done in a way that uses good COVID practice. This includes undertaking transitions with as low numbers as possible and following mitigations required for primary schools.
Where possible, primary schools should promote the use of the outdoors for transition days, as that is the safest space in which young people from different settings should mix. However, children do not have to be invited as an entire P1 year group, but could be grouped together in small bubbles in line with those applicable in their ELC setting, or in small groups from several settings.
These visits must be supported by a detailed risk assessment and must not take place if there is an outbreak in the ELC setting or primary school. The risk assessment should include consideration of the protection level in both the ELC and school setting. While transitions visits would constitute a permitted reason for leaving or entering the area, this should be supported by enhanced risk mitigations, such as smaller group sizes and maximising time outdoors.
Unless absolutely necessary to offer comfort and support to children who are anxious about the visit or become unsettled during the visit, ELC staff and other adults (including parents) should not be present with the children throughout the transitions visit. ELC staff can accompany the children to the school but remain on hand from a safe distance, such as an empty staff room or playground. They should avoid interacting indoors with school staff and pupils unless absolutely necessary to support the wellbeing of children in their care and must be made aware of and adhere to the risk mitigations in place for essential visitors to the school.
Where this minimises the number of adults visiting schools, children should be accompanied to transition visits by ELC staff rather than by parents. This should also ensure that the visit is undertaken by someone who is familiar with and used to applying the COVID risk mitigations in education settings. Schools will be able to explain what alternative provisions they have in place to engage with parents remotely to support their child’s transition to school. Where only one child is visiting from the ELC setting or staff pressures mean that ELC settings are not able to support the visit, parents (rather than ELC staff) can accompany their child but should enter the school only if it is absolutely necessary to provide comfort and support to children who become unsettled during the visit. Comfort and support should be provided at a safe distance from other children, pupils and adults.
The Sub-Group also recognised that schools should be able proceed with enhanced in person transition to support children who need it most, allowing children with additional support needs to become familiar with the primary school before they attend in August, in line with responsibilities under the Additional Support for Learning Act. This may involve the attendance of parents but this will be decided on a case by case basis through collegiate dialogue between the ELC setting and the school and should be supported by a bespoke risk assessment. All identified risk mitigation measures should be in place at the time of the visit.
Primary class teachers or senior staff can attend ELC settings to meet children who are making the transition to primary school if this is in the best interest of the child and is safe to do so, having regard to the protection level in which the school and ELC setting are situated. These meetings may be especially important for children with additional support needs. These visits must be risk-assessed and there must be appropriate mitigations in place, in line with the section on visitors to the setting. These visits must not take place if there is an outbreak in the ELC setting or primary school.
Education Scotland have developed some practical advice on supporting the transitions from ELC and into Primary 1 during the pandemic. ELC settings and schools may wish to consider strategies such as:
using Sway or narrated PowerPoints to share information with parents and children
sharing staff video introductions and welcomes on ELC and or school blogs or YouTube
sharing school and classroom video tours (both the child and parent’s eye level view should be considered when doing this)
setting up a private Facebook group, or having an email address where parents can ask questions
adding a ‘transitions frequently asked questions’ section the setting and/or school website and or newsletter